Heatwaves and Pop Brixton go together like… Harry and Meghan? (#topical) When the days are long and the nights are balmy, there isn’t a better spot to head south of the river, especially if you have a hunger for some extraordinarily decent food. If that is the case, then a visit simply has to be specifically paid to Smoke & Salt; quite possibly the best restaurant I’ve been to this year.
As soon as Smoke & Salt was given a glowing review by Time Out in March, it shot straight to the top of my to-try list. Naturally, it went to the top of a lot of other people’s lists, too, so on my first attempt at a reservation-less visit, my friends and I were regrettably turned away (walk-up tables of 6 are always a long shot!), so for attempt number two, I booked my boyfriend and I a table online on one of the first hot days of the year. The earliest we could get a reservation was 9pm, but it was worth staying hungry for.
We were seen to our table within the shipping container and shown the menu. Diners can opt to go with the a la carte, or the extraordinarily good value £25 7-course tasting menu. We went with that.
It’s worth noting that the menu at Smoke & Salt changes regularly, and has done since that first visit, however, their unavailability doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be spoken about now (just in case they make a return!) The tasting menu of early April included a beautifully warm and fresh Sourdough accompanied by smooth, light and creamy whipped butter, salted and decadent, demonstrating how some of the simplest dishes can be the most heavenly. Luckily this is a recurring treat on every menu.
This was followed by the Sprouting broccoli and the New Potatoes, complete with the optional additional Wiltshire beef heart. The latter also remains on the menu, and thank God because it is outstanding. The potatoes are soft and fluffy, and the gorgonzola offers a rich saltiness, while the chimichurri provides a sharp and additive tang that tickles every corner of the mouth. When it comes to the beef heart, it is worth getting over any squeamishness you might feel at the thought of it, because it really is beautifully succulent and flavourful.
However, the champion dish of visit number one was the broccoli, which is quite possibly the best God damn vegetable I have ever eaten in my life. My boyfriend was convinced the only way this beautiful, lightly al dente stem tasted so good was that it must have been basted in a rich, flavourful animal fat (because logic dictates no vegetable can actually taste better than meat!) but alas, it was simply the outstanding seasoning and cooking that can be credited for this stand-out dish. I may start a campaign for it to return.
Best not to dwell too much on the past, of course, as the new menu for May also features some incredible dishes that left me swooning in my chair beneath the terrace’s patio heater on visit number two.
The asparagus, for starters, is a gorgeously fresh plate of seasonal delights (Asparagus season officially starts on St George’s day, dontcha know) accompanied by feta, horseradish and hazelnuts for a clever mix of textures, while the Imbhams Cornbread with wild garlic has a light consistency, and though crumbly and delicate, wasn’t too dry or mealy, but I would say it lacked the same excitement and innovation of the other dishes on the menu.
The Market Ceviche for the night was seabream, with a sweetness provided by chunks of rhubarb, and a little heat offered by scotch bonnet peppers; an incredibly light dish with a sharp, zingy bite.
The final two dishes of the night were the marvellously tender Pig Cheek which melted away in the mouth with its jelly-like layer of rich, salty fat and soft, juicy flesh, alongside crunchy onion rings and bloody mary hot sauce; and the dessert of Banana & Miso, made with chocolate tofu, banana custard and miso jam which spilt our table of four down the middle, with me on the side that wasn’t a fan on account of the textures and peculiar bitterness of the chocolate. The only negative of both visits and one I’m happy to forgive and forget due to the rest of the meal being so spectacular.
To wash the food down, the Rhubarb Tommy was a refreshing, summer cocktail made with tequila, rhubarb and thai basil. The intense and addictive sweetness was balanced out by the punch of tequila, but it remained extremely (and dangerously) easy to guzzle down. If sweet cocktails aren’t your thing, you can always opt for the ‘Smoke & Salt modern IPA’ with its citrusy, floral notes.
I don’t often return to a restaurant so quickly after a first visit, but Smoke & Salt have got something really special about them and I just can’t get enough. The food is truly special and the service passionate, helpful and informative, and my curiosity will be forever alert for the new seasonal menus to come, so I guess they have a customer for life in me.
Photography courtesy of Smoke & Salt